Breaking the Rules of Photography

Last week I spent an awesome afternoon with my wedding photographer Matt Elliott discussing all things photography.IMG_3114 What I enjoyed most about chatting with him was the fact that he has ignored or flat out rejected many of the accepted rules of photography - and his work is still AMAZING!

I often find myself getting so caught up in the rules of photography and forget that my work is meant to be a reflection of my own creative self.

Creativity and how you express it shouldn't be about rules!

I guess I haven't found my own particular "style" of photography yet, but that comes with time and practice, and for now I am happy to meet myself where I'm at, and be happy with the leaps and bounds I have made since I first picked up my camera.

My inspiration comes in fits and bursts, and I'm OK with that.

My desire to learn about photography comes and goes. That's OK too.

What I do know is, when the mood strikes me and I do go out and practice photography I completely lose track of time, I become impervious to the weather and I feel pretty damn happy.

That's pretty awesome. Don't you think?IMG_3110

Here's some of what I learnt from Matt.

There is no right or wrong way to take landscape shots. 

Last year I took part in a great one day Landscape photography course which I did learn a lot from, but I was told at the start of the day to set my camera to Manual, ISO 100 and F-stop 16 and leave it there.

I have used these settings for my landscape shots ever since. No questions asked, no messing with the rules.

I have never considered that there is a better or worse way. I just took this on as gospel and never took the time to experiment with my own creativity.

After speaking with Matt my opinion on landscape photography has changed quite dramatically. While I'm not saying the settings above won't get you an amazing shot, I am saying there ARE other ways to go about it and it's always a good thing to try out different techniques to find your own way.

All of my shots in this post were taken with Matt's suggestion of trying out Aperture Priority mode, low f-stop, and auto ISO. With these settings, the camera takes care of shutter speed.


I was really surprised when he told me that most of his landscape shots were taken with a wide open aperture (aka shallow depth of field), but he did a great job at explaining that how and where you focus is more important. You can use low aperture and still get a large depth of field.

So for the shot above, I focused on the larger tree to the right, so everything in front of that tree is in focus, and the tree is far enough away from me to have everything behind it in focus too. If I had focused on the grass right in front of me everything after that would be out of focus though.


When it comes to composition, the best thing you can do is keep practicing!

There's no quick way to learn better composition techniques, you just have to keep trying out different shots until you see what you like.

I find composition is often the hardest part, and I have been known to actually google popular photography spots to see how other photographers have shot the same scene. While there's nothing wrong with that, it is still good to go out on your own and try to find the shot you love.

There's so much to Lightroom I didn't know about.

Like this super handy little tool, which you can use to straighten your horizon without the guesswork! Just use it between two points along your wonky horizon and it automatically straightens the image for you. How did I not know about this before!scshot

OK, that's all for today. So now I just gotta go and do some practice!

I will update again soon with some new shots.

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Better Bokeh in 5 Simple Steps

Once upon a time I had no clue what Bokeh was, let alone how the hell to pronounce it! Boh-kee. Bokay. Bo-keh. IMG_2618

According to a post I read recently, "bouquet" is most commonly agreed upon as correct.

So bokeh (bouquet) - I personally enjoy saying Boh-kee- is a technical term used for that nice blurry effect which you get in the out of focus areas of your photographs when you use a shallow depth of field.

Today I have 5 steps to practice for better bokeh.

1. Understand Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to the areas in your photograph which are in and out of focus. Shallow depth of field will create more out of focus areas and consequently more bokeh. A greater depth of field will ensure that more of your photograph is in focus. Remember a shallow depth of field means using a small f-stop value for a large aperture, and deep depth of field requires large f-stop numbers for narrow aperture.

To create beautiful bokeh use a shallow depth of field and a longer focal length (zoom in more).


2. Different lenses create different Bokeh

While equipment doesn't always matter, all lenses are not equal, and this is especially evident when it comes to achieving beautiful bokeh. The circular or octagonal shape of a lens aperture is determined by how many blades are used to create the aperture opening and if they are curved or square edged.

Generally speaking a more expensive lens will use more aperture blades which are also rounded. This effectively creates a circular shaped aperture which is reflected in the bokeh.

IMG_28763. Get up close and personal

In the image above I had my aperture set at f/4.0 and you can see the reflected circles in the bokeh. Recreate this effect by zooming in close to your subject and by also making sure the background isn't too far away. You can see in the image below of the Kookaburra that although the background is still nicely blurred I haven't managed the same circular effect because the background is further away from the subject.

For absolutely stunning bokeh in images with a far away background choose a lens with a large aperture (f/1.4, f/1.8).

IMG_28584. Use the background effectively

When bokeh is your primary goal it can be easy to simply set your aperture to the lowest value and hope for the best, but this isn't going to get you the best results. Keep in mind that the background of your image is also important and offers perspective and valued details to your photograph as a whole.

Rather than simply trying to create a blurry background, focus instead on how you want your subject to be captured. Practice using DOF to find the right aperture to ensure what is and isn't in focus and what the eye is naturally drawn to. IMG_2885

5. Experiment

When you understand how depth of field and bokeh are related it's fun to experiment with different angle and perspectives to tell a different story. Instead of just focusing on having a blurry background, try blurry objects in the foreground.

Utilize your creativity and fun with it!

IMG_2887These photos were taken on a sunny winter afternoon in the Dandenong Ranges at SkyHigh.

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Photo of the Day: Prairie Dogs

I spent a hot afternoon at San Francisco Zoo today, and seeing these little Prairie Dogs was the best part of my day.  Due to the heat, most of the Zoo's animals were resting in the shade, but not these guys.

These two were hanging out sharing their bits of straw.

Well worth the visit in the heat!

This was shot at ISO 800, 80mm, f/5 at 1/800 sec on my 75-300mm lens.